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Building an AR15 in Massachusetts: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Jan 25



Custom Ar15 with Evil Features
Custom Ar15 with Evil Features

If you're a gun enthusiast in Massachusetts, the idea of building an AR15 could certainly be an intriguing endeavor. The process can be intricate yet rewarding, instigating you to look beyond what a standard firearm store offers and building something that truly caters to your requirements. Before you start assembling your dream AR15, it is crucial to understand the state's firearms laws, especially regarding building an AR15 in Massachusetts.


Understanding the Massachusetts Law


Massachusetts firearm laws are considered among the most stringent in the nation. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the legal implications concerning AR15 builds. As per Massachusetts laws, there are two ways you can build an AR15. The route you choose will considerably influence the design, aesthetics, and functionality of your finished product.


Having Trouble understanding the legality of MA Assault Weapon Laws? Try our quick assessment to help determine whether your build is compliant!




Pre-ban or Post-ban: The Fundamental Distinction


The first and most fundamental distinction to understand when building an AR15 in Massachusetts is the difference between a Pre-ban and Post-ban AR-15. This refers to whether or not the rifle was manufactured before 1994, a critical turning point when Massachusetts decided to enforce an assault weapons ban.


Any AR15 style rifle manufactured after 1994 is subject to strict regulations, most notably including a Non-detachable magazine.


1. Pre-ban AR Build:

(Receiver Manufactured prior to 9/13/94)


If you are considering building a Pre-Ban AR-15 rifle in Massachusetts, it is crucial to understand the state's firearm regulations. In particular, Massachusetts utilizes the serial number on the lower receiver to monitor and classify the firearm, while the remaining components of the rifle are more-or-less unregulated and replaceable.



Fortunately, Aside from the lower receiver, you can use all new parts for the rest of your Pre-Ban AR-15. This means you can have the latest features that are normally not allowed under the assault weapons ban. Features such a flash hider, a foregrip, an adjustable stock, and lug for fixing a bayonet. This also means you can swap out the entire upper receiver for modern M-LOK or Quad Rail Builds.


In the photo below, the lower receiver is shown highlighted in red. None of the hardware within the lower receiver (trigger, mag release, sear etc.) is required to be manufactured before 1994, only the receiver itself.



Expensive Preban Receiver on Gunbroker
Expensive Preban Receiver on Auction

However, there's a downside. Lower receivers made before 1994 are hard to find and can command a hefty premium. Sometimes, often fetching prices upwards of $1,500. So while you can build an AR-15 with all these cool features in Massachusetts, finding and buying the right lower receiver might hit your wallet hard.





2. Post-ban AR Build - "Post-Healy"

(Receiver Manufactured/Rifle Registered in MA after 7/20/2016)


On July 20th, 2016. The Attorney General of Massachusetts released a notice condemning all manufacture & possession of any new AR15 that contains a detachable magazine, regardless of whether they contain any "evil features" or not


This means In order to build a brand new AR-15 that complies with both the MGL & the 2016 AG Enforcement notice, your AR-15 Must have a Non-Detachable, Non-Large-Capacity Magazine.


There are a few benefits...


Unlike the option we will discuss in the next section, with a Post-Ban, fixed magazine build. You can have as many "evil features" on your rifle as you want.


What are these "evil features" we speak of? We will list them below in no particular order


  • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.

  • A folding or telescoping stock.

  • A grenade launcher or flare launcher.

  • A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor;

  • A bayonet lug








3. Post-ban AR Build - "Pre-Healy"

(Rifle Registered in MA between 9/13/1994 - 7/20/2016)


If having a fixed magazine on your AR-15 is a deal breaker for you (we don't blame you), a "Pre-Healy" build might be more up your alley, this build will allow you to get the detachable magazine you are looking for, without having to opt for a much older, pre-1994 rifle.


"Pre-Healy" refers to the period of time before the AG's enforcement notice was released (before 7/20/16). AR15 rifles that were REGISTERED in Massachusetts (not manufactured) before this date are grandfathered into the "Pre-Healy" Category.


Whats the catch?


While a "Pre-Healy" build will permit for a detachable magazine, the catch is, you are restricted to having only 1 of the 5 "evil" features that were listed above. Usually, enthusiasts with this type of build will opt for the pistol grip as their chosen "evil feature"


When building a "Pre-Healy" AR15, there are various creative ways to comply with these restrictions. You can, for instance, permanently pin your stocks in place, remove bayonet lugs, replace flash hiders with compliant muzzle brakes, Etc.


The Upsides of a Post-Ban AR-15 (Its Cost, that's it)


While a Post-Ban build severely limits your rifles ability to be effective in combat or self defense, they can often be build for a fraction of the price as compared to a Pre-Ban Build. Because of this, a Post-Ban build can still be a fantastic option for hitting the the range or hunting.

Post-ban Receiver on Gunbroker
Post ban Receiver on Auction

Building Your AR15: Pre ban or Post ban?


With such restrictions, one might argue that a post ban AR15 is essentially a glorified hunting rifle. If you're looking for a more authentic AR15 experience without the feature constraints, you could opt for a Pre ban build. Pre ban AR15s allow gun owners to incorporate various "evil features" excluded in post ban builds, providing a closer resemblance to the original design. The Pre ban build lets you swap out every part, excluding the lower receiver, for new parts, taking the customization to a whole new level.


Whether you're planning to go with Pre ban or Post ban, your dream AR15 build will come with its challenges and triumphs. However, building your AR15 should never be disheartening or overly complex. That's where we come in.


Here at Bay State Surplus, our goal is to make your dream AR15 build experience as streamlined, enjoyable, and satisfying as possible. We are not only passionate about the AR15 but also committed to offering personalized solutions for your individual needs.


Can you build an AR Pistol in Massachusetts?


The short answer to this is, kind of, we would love to explain exactly why but the explanation would double the length of this article. Pre-Ban AR Pistol lower receivers are extraordinarily rare, which makes this option infeasible. A Post-ban build would require you to buy a lower receiver with a pinned fixed magazine, and build the pistol yourself.


The "evil features" that define an "Assault Pistol" are different than the features that define an "assault rifle", making matters more complicated. Dealers are also unable to transfer a complete AR Pistol despite its compliance due to the fact that are not on the approved firearms roster, which dealers must abide by.


So while it is technically possible, many would consider it a pointless endeavor.



Bay State Surplus Logo
Bay State Surplus Logo


AR15 Build Kits South Shore


Bay State Surplus is partnered with dozens of companies who produce AR-15's & AR-15 parts of all kinds.


From Pre ban receivers to post ban AR15 build kits in the South Shore, we provide a comprehensive array of products you would need for your dream build. We value our customers' unique needs and aspirations and assert our professionalism to cater to those requirements in a cost-effective way.




Should you have any queries or need expert advice, please feel free to reach out to us at baystatesurplus@gmail.com or (781)361-3771. Let's together bring your dream AR15 to life and ensure you're abreast of the legalities of building an AR15 in Massachusetts.


Our team at Bay State Surplus is looking forward to working 1 on 1 with every customer, helping you connect the dots and navigate the intricacies of a customized AR15 build!


***Although we are committed to offering valuable information regarding gun regulations to residents of Massachusetts, it is important to clarify that this article should not be regarded as legal advice or legal reference. We strongly encourage you to consult Massachusetts General Law, The Attorney General's Enforcement Notice, and ATF regulations, as these sources contain the comprehensive and accurate information regarding the applicable laws.***





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